Katharina Ludwig, Philipp Müller
Does Social Media Use Promote Political Mass Polarization? A Structured Literature Review

S. 118-166 in: Bejamin Krämer, Philipp Müller (Hrsg.): Questions of Communicative Change and Continuity: In Memory of Wolfram Peiser. 1. Aufl. 2022. Baden-Baden: Nomos

In past years, a large amount of research was conducted to determine whether the use of social media causes political polarization. This research field, however, lacks clear terminological definitions and concepts such as fragmentation and selective exposure are often imprecisely equated with political polarization, which may explain the widespread assumption that social media cause political polarization. With this article, we aim to un ravel conceptual confusion and offer distinct definitions of affective, ideo logical, and partisan polarization. We conducted a structured literature review of 88 studies addressing the potential effects of social media use on polarization. We find the operationalization of relevant concepts to differ significantly between research projects, making the comparability of results difficult and possibly contributing to inconsistent findings. No clear evidence is found to support the generalized perception of strong polarization effects through the use of social media. Implications for future research are proposed.